"I work out to relieve stress."But have you ever heard someone tell you they work out to overcome their anxiety? Not so common is it? Believe it or not, but you can actually work out to the point of overcoming anxiety.
We have been so focused on the physical aspects of exercise and activity, that we have yet to fully comprehend the mental benefits. Unlike the physical benefits, the mental benefits have a much greater carryover to our entire life.
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Need to make an A in your class? Building the discipline through sticking to an exercise routine can aid in your efforts to stay disciplined with your studying. Having trouble approaching your crush? Building the self confidence and witnessing your potential turn into ability can give you the confidence to ask him/her out.
Social anxiety (or any other anxiety) holding you back in life? Exercise the social anxiety away. In this article I will explain the two most important principles of my fitness journey that helped me overcome my social anxiety.
Improve Social Anxiety With ExerciseWhen it comes to overcoming social anxiety (or any anxiety for that matter) no one knows how to do so more than the people who have done it themselves. I have struggled with social anxiety for years.
Started out when I was younger and could not even order my own food at fast food restaurants. I either skipped that meal or asked my parents/siblings to order for me (usually just skipped). Back then it was considered "cute and being shy."
Fast forward quite a few years and it is not so cute. You struggle to promote what you do in life, you cannot ask for help when you are struggling, you cannot make connections with people you are interested in, and life in itself seems to difficult to bare.
Eventually I got heavily into working out. But unlike most who pursued physical fitness I perceived exercising differently.
I thought of the way the body works together in order to get more done. I saw the beauty in the process not the outcome. I saw physical activity's ability to build us up in every other aspect of wellness (not just physical).
I used what I had learned from the gym and took these tools in order to overcome my social anxiety, which most would consider to be completely irrelevant to physical activity. I must add that this "overcoming" did not come from the built self confidence, but rather from the tools used to progress in the gym. I analyzed these tools and used them towards my life as a whole.
Tools to Overcome Social AnxietySo what were these tools that helped me so much?
Tool #1 - Embrace the AnxietyThe first principle of overcoming social anxiety that I had learned from my fitness journey was getting comfortable with anxiety. I would do things that built my anxiety up pre-set and would learn to "just do it" and embrace the anxiety.
I would do things like squat/press heavy attempts without a spotter/safety pins, lifts countless sets even when the previous sets were near failure, and make myself go for personal bests in randomized sessions. I literally made myself mentally uncomfortable frequently enough to become comfortable with this type of "uncomfortability."
Tool #2 - Do What You Suck AtThe second principle of overcoming social anxiety that I had learned from my fitness journey is to get good at... things you suck at! Countless times you will hear a coach or fellow lifter comment that you "need to work on your weaknesses" or "do what you fear/suck at the most." For me, that was social interaction.
Much like training, instead of going full-force changing your entire routine into exercises for that one component to your training, I did not make huge adjustments in my actions to change one component of my life. I started adding nods to people, then smiles and waves, eventually turning it all into conversations with everyone I met.
I learned to start small and build momentum. It's better to start small and make progress then to jump too much difficulty and fail, both halting progressing and lowering confidence (much like increasing too much weight on the bar, failing a rep, then being worried next time you come across the same weight).
Tool #3 - Find SupportThe third, and most important, principle of overcoming social anxiety that I had learned from my fitness journey is to find support. This sounds very basic, but how many people do you know in the gym who just put on their headphones, tune everyone out, and go about their business?
The same thing occurs with social anxiety. Most individuals (like myself) feel completely isolated during our struggle, which makes us less inclined to seek help and less inclined to feel that anyone can help us. In the gym many beginners are too intimidated to ask for help, feel too isolated to ask for help, do not know how to go about progressing in their endeavors, and just struggle alone because everyone shuts each other out.
Finding support with your headphones in, tuning people out, and going about your business alone is hard. Just like finding support for overcoming anxiety is hard when you do not have anyone to talk to about your struggles (and the anxiety itself keeps you from doing so).
Just like if you had a fitness question you can do your own research online, find support from members of a forum, ask your family, or ask those that are already close to you. Your support in the gym does not have to a IFBB Pro bodybuilder, just like your support for social anxiety does not have to be someone who is an expert at communication. Just having someone you can vent to, ask questions, and bounce ideas off of will do wonders for both your fitness and anxiety-free journey.
ClosingBy experiencing and taking advantage of your fitness journey you not only improve your health, but also your mind, and most importantly your life! We have always discussed "exercising away stress," but what about anxieties such as social anxiety?
Two things so irrelevant to one another, yet with the right mindset, advice, and plan you can use what you learn in your fitness journey to overcome social anxiety. I have, and YOU can too!
My name is Ahmed Jabai. I am an NSCA certified personal trainer, a Kinesiology major, a Content writer, and the Co-Founder of Powerhouse Aesthetics. My goal is to not only give people an aesthetic body, but to also pave the way for them to acquire an aesthetic mind using the tools, tips, and lessons learned from acquiring their aesthetic body.